I've made a terrible mistake.
I'm at the Trump Bar within Trump Tower, the gilded skyscraper named after the blustery blonde Twitter-ranting demagogue who is easily the most controversial presidential candidate of all time, and am just now recognising my vulnerability.
My name is Hilary. I have made the poor decision of telling this to a man at the bar.
"Hilary?!?! More like HELLARY," the man spits. "H-E-L-L..."
I have made a terrible, terrible mistake.
My colleague Martin*, whom I've brought for emotional support and as an excuse to order more of the Trump-centric drinks from the bar's menu, is keeping his cool. He's from Florida, and knows how to act in these situations.
"You look like a journalist. You look like a Hillary supporter," the man hisses at me with a devilish, accusatory grin. I freeze. He's wearing a shirt printed with a giant photograph of Donald Trump's face, adorned with a large, matching Trump button. Above that button is a tiny pin depicting Martin Luther King, Jr. Somehow, even in the most culturally neutral outfit I could assemble this morning, I'm giving off libtard red flags to this guy.
"A journalist! HAHAHAHAHA!" Martin interjects, rescuing me with fake incredulousness.
Trump-Shirt Man backs off and introduces himself as Joe*. Martin tells him we're tourists. "Whoo—well, at least you look like a Trump supporter," Joe says to him. Martin is wearing a blue button-up shirt, and is a man. Other than that, I don't really understand the distinction here.
Really, we are kind of tourists. From Brooklyn. But look, the Trump Bar might as well be Mars. In sharp contrast with the graffitied, bike-racked, juice-bar-lined streets that comprise our universe, the Trump Tower is all marble and brass and cursive and worn red velvet curtains. There are security guards in suits at its entrance, although they pay little attention to us, as the lobby is conspicuously empty at 7 PM on a Tuesday. So is Trump's Ice Cream Parlor (save for some security guards playing on their phones), the Trump Grill, The Trump Store, and Trump Cafe. And the aspirations of grandeur really fade when you make a sharp right at the gaudy escalators, past the wide variety of MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN-embroidered baseball caps and infant onesies in the lobby, and walk into the Trump Bar.
Two large TVs in the surprisingly small bar are showing Trump being interviewed on The O'Reilly Factor. You might assume that the Trump Bar would be packed with his supporters during these crucial final weeks of the election. It has only been only two nights since the second presidential debate. But instead, the bar has the semi-abandoned vibe of a faux-fancy pub in a lesser-used airport terminal at four in the morning.
There's just me and Martin; Joe, who soon tells us he quit his job in Washington, DC just to come to New York City and spread the Trump gospel; a younger guy named Steve* who looks like a townie version of Christian Slater; a golden-maned, argyle-socked mini Trump in the corner drinking a whole bottle of wine by himself; an incredibly awkward couple off in the leather chairs in the corner who appear to be on the kind of stiff, banal date that preludes most softcore porn movies from the 1980s; and an older, glowering man in a suit whose sole preoccupation seems to be staring at me and Martin from a few tables away. I am convinced that he is a Trump spy, there to keep a wary eye on people like us—people who come to Trump Bar hoping to glean an inside look at what they assume to be the mania of Trump followers.
As much as the man in the blue shirt is freaking me the fuck out—which is a lot, I tell Martin—he's not wrong. I am not voting for Trump, and I never assumed that his eponymous bar would be a beacon for well-informed, open-minded political discussion. But if it was, it would have made me feel better about the growing rift in America, the ideological division that forms a tale of two countries.
Within three minutes of our arrival and shortly after letting go of his suspicions that I might be a member of the amoral, all-powerful media, Joe casually hands us a flyer. This flyer presents all of his thoughts about every contemporary political figure, government organisation, and world religion, an hours-long stream of consciousness squished into a single 8 ½-by-11-inch sheet in a maddeningly small font. (Why didn't he print this double-sided in a normal-sized font? I wonder.)
This is the first sentence of his flyer: "DONALD TRUMP & DR. BEN CARSON 2016 TO DEFEAT ANTI-CHRIST SPIRIT OF OBAMA & HILLARY CLINTON THE ILLUMINATI'S PUPPET JEZEBEL WITCH!!!" It gets worse from there. "Here you go!" Joe beams.
On that note, I decide that I need alcohol. A lot of it. Immediately. The bartender is a lovely young woman—with nice bangs, a mark of the beast signifying her as a potential progressive—who I hope eventually escapes the eerie clutches of Trump Tower. I order a "You're Fired"("House-made Bloody Mary Mix, Absolut Vodka, celery") for Martin and "The Billionaire Martini" ("Premium Chopin Vodka, Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth, Castelvetrano olive, pearl onion, cornichon") for myself.
There's only one problem. The bar is "out of pickles." Oh, she meant cornichons. And they're also out of pearl onions, and that brand of vermouth. And the bartender isn't sure if they have the Chopin vodka, either; is another brand OK? Yeah, sure.
I receive a martini glass full of shaken mid-tier vodka, no vermouth, with three decidedly non-Castelvetrano olives in it. They are the tiny pimento-stuffed olives that typically come in a one-gallon jar purchased from BevMo.
This is the worst martini I've ever had in my life.
Oh, and although the website also says that they serve food until 10 PM—we had looked forward to sampling the shrimp cocktail and Buffalo wings—there isn't any food available, either. But the bartender is so angelic, especially in contrast to the man two barstools over from me who is talking about how "Black Lives Matter protestors are all Jew-hating Muslims who want to douse white people in gasoline and set them on fire" (verbatim), I just say, "No problem."
Drinking my enormous glass of watery olive vodka on an empty stomach, I do not feel like a billionaire. I feel like someone who just paid $20 for a strong pour of watered-down vodka and a few Manzanilla olives.
If I had a tower named after me that was built of my (purported) enormous affluence, and a bar within that tower, right near its entryway, and a drink within that bar that was meant to specifically signify my wealth and success, I would probably try to ensure that if nothing else, that one cocktail was pretty decent. Or at least that I had the correct garnishes on hand.
But then again, we're talking about about a man who had his own failed line of steaks that he declared "The World's Greatest," but who eats his own beef well-done; dry, brown, and rubbery. I think it's fair to assume that he doesn't really give a shit how the Billionaire Martini tastes, or even whether it contains the ingredients listed on the menu; he just cares that a drink with that ostentatious name is on his menu at all.
After a sip or two of my tragic Billionaire Martini, I hear Joe suggest to Martin that Khizr Khan, the father of fallen Muslim-American soldier Humayun Khan, is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. (If you Google this assertion, the first result is a Snopes page debunking it due to complete lack of evidence.) "His goal is total indoctrination of the American people," he says. "And the mother supports the practice of female genital mutilation and wants to spread it throughout the US."
I'm just not sure I believe that's true, Joe. But I remain quiet. It's not worth it, I tell myself.
"Furthermore," he continues, "Hillary—the Khans' best friend—anyone who's ever worked with her will tell you that if you try to look her in the eye, or talk to her—and this is true!—she'll say—and this is exactly what she says!—she will say, 'Shut the fuck up, you dumb motherfucker. Do you even know who you're talking to, you stupid fuck?'"
At this, I can't help but break into laughter as I contemplate how incredibly exhausting it would be to repeat this highly aggressive phrase to every single person who attempted to make eye contact or conversation with me on a daily basis, which is surely far fewer people than Hillary Clinton encounters.
"Wow," I say. "Really? She says that?"
"Yes," Joe says. "Every single person who's ever worked for her says so."
Martin leans over. "Dude, this drink is disgusting," he whispers. "It has like a half a jar of horseradish in it and the texture of drinking wet carpet fibres."
Over the course of the next 40 or so minutes, Joe tells us that he has exchanged Facebook messages with David Duke, White Nationalist "politician" and former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan; that on September 11th, 2014, God spoke to him directly and said he had to guarantee that Donald Trump would usurp power from Hillary Clinton and President Obama; that Hillary Clinton's private email server was used for her to personally sell American military weapons to terrorists; that Obama is the antichrist; and that he really, really loves conservative radio host/conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Steve, nursing a Budweiser, occasionally chimes in with affirmations: "That's true about Black Lives Matter. My dad was Jewish, and I have black friends, and they say that's true," or "Oh yeah, Hillary Clinton is, like, best friends with the heads of ISIS. It's a fact. She wants sharia law in America now."
I've downed the horrible martini, and my brain hurts. The glass shelves behind the bar are lined with Trump wines of all kinds. I order an $18 glass of Trump sparkling rosé. In all fairness, it's not bad. Perfectly pleasant.
To tear my thoughts away from the paranoid, racist, nonsensical drivel that Joe and Steve are unabashedly perpetuating, I ask the bartender how the crowd at the bar has changed since the election cycle really took off.
"It's not that busy," she shrugs. "People do come in here and want to talk about political stuff."
"Do you agree with most of the things they say?" I ask.
"I keep my political beliefs to myself," she smiles. "I've worked here for ten years. So, yeah—things are different now. By the way, we're closing soon."
The bar's website says it closes at 10 PM. So did whoever answered the phone yesterday. It's 8:45.
The bartender shrugs.
In efforts to get as drunk as we can before leaving, Martin simultaneously orders a glass of Trump's sparkling blanc de blancs and "The Boardroom"—a cocktail that purportedly contains Dewar's 12 Year, Carpano Antica, Angostura bitters, and brandied cherries, per the menu. When the bartender sets it down, I note that the cherries are maraschino. But it tastes pretty decent, like a markedly sweet Old Fashioned. I ask if I can see the bottle of whiskey used to make it. She shows me a bottle of Puerto Rican pitorro, or moonshine. I'm really, really confused.
The emperor is a stark naked statue in Union Square, literally and figuratively.
Martin asks if he can take a photo with an extremely dusty magnum of Trump sparkling wine that's sitting in a tarnished bucket at the end of the bar. "Sure," says the bartender.
Someone on the TV mentions Hillary Clinton's remark describing many Trump followers as "deporables."
"Hey—we're all deplorables," Steve says. I certainly feel deplorable right now.
The bartender is turning down the lights and handing us our substantial bill. I ask Steve if he can recommend a restaurant nearby where Martin and I can go grab a bite.
"Well, I don't know how strong your political beliefs are," Steve says. "But if you don't mind passively supporting terrorism, I will say that there is a really good halal cart on 53rd and 6th."
*Names have been changed because my coworker is sketched out, I don't want the bartender to get fired, and Joe and Steve, despite their deeply troubling political stances, were quite friendly. Unless you're a journalist. Which, it turns out, I am.